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Here’s why you might have a ‘digital headache’

Picture: Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

By Allen van Blerk

If your head hurts don’t be surprised – working digitally can give you a real headache. There are at least 10 reasons why this could be true, and here are some practical things you can do to maintain mental digital wellness while working remotely:

1. Blue light on digital screens
A digital headache can be a real physical effect of late-night screen exposure. Looking at a cellphone, watching TV or surfing on a tablet or PC later at night and especially before going to bed, will keep your brain in a state of over-stimulation which makes sleeping difficult. To help, you can use the option to turn off the blue light a few hours before going to bed.

Hours spent watching TV late at night is bound to give you a ‘digital headache’. Picture: Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

2. Continuous scrolling
Scrolling on a cellphone or digital device is like looking out a train window at high speed – similar to the feelings people have when they are seasick. Limit your time with social media like Facebook which involves unlimited scrolling.
3. Open plan living
This is great for socialisation and family life, but constantly filtering out TV, music, pets and cellphone conversations in the background can place a real strain on your brain. If your house is too noisy, a good pair of headphones might be just what you need to avoid a headache.
4. Waiting
Waiting for government officials to show up for meetings they schedule and listening carefully for announcements that they do not make. To avoid a headache, wait for an hour after the meeting has actually happened and then read the summary for relevant points.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is not known for his time-keeping when it comes to his evening addresses to the nation.

5. Global stress and anxiety
Global stress is created by watching a concentrated mix of bad news delivered by the media from around the world. You will get a headache and feel depressed if you spend hours watching the rest of the world’s bad news. Check in once a week on international issues and only concern yourself with what you can actually do something about.

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6. Fighting with technology
Fighting with technology can destroy your day. By the time you have learned a new program or app, tried to sign a document online, had your submission thrown out because the internet connection failed, your computer and cellphone needs to be recharged again, or your teenagers have hot-spotted off your phone and used up all your data, it is no wonder that you have a splitting headache. So, make sure you set goals for the morning, afternoon and evening sessions of work. Do a few tasks that are easy to complete first, before you surrender the day to items that will eat up your time.

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7. Listening
Listening without being able to properly read gestures and facial expressions is exhausting and can result in a digitally induced headache. A Zoom meeting with video on is like watching 10 or more TV reality shows at the same time. Listening to voice notes and bad connections is another quick way to deplete our energy. The only way to cope with this is to get enough sleep so your head can recover.

A Zoom meeting with video on is like watching 10 or more TV reality shows at the same time.

8. Low quality information
Low quality information received on social media uses up your brain’s energy. Your brain is compelled by its nature to resolve all information that you expose it to. So, limit what you look at and save your brain for the good stuff.
9. High quality information
High quality information is just as taxing. Reading dense policy documents and expert articles is very, very demanding. In this period of disruption we all have to learn a lot of new things at a fast pace. This means that you can literally feel your brain trying to grow new neural pathways, which is great when you are seven years old and can sleep for 11 hours a day. The only way to help this headache is to get more sleep too.

All those arbitrary videos shared on WhatsApp will tax your brain.

10. Working horizontally
Working while lying down is a fatal method – don’t be surprised when your body and mind surrender. The fight against gravity will give you a definite headache when you wake up two hours later and realise you’ve missed a meeting.

Of course, the reason for your headache might be a simple case of dehydration – you might just be thirsty!

**Article provided by Allen van Blerk, Principal of St Charles College in Pietermaritzburg

Now read: Just like nature, maybe we should live life in the moment, for now

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